How to Build Strength Without Lifting Weights

Woman Kayaking

There are many ways to build strength without ever touching a dumbbell. In this blog post we’ll cover some of the easier and more common ways to increase your strength without lifting weights.

Building your strength carries a lot of benefits. Work around the house will be easier to accomplish, and you’ll be able to do recreational activities like hiking and biking longer and farther. It also improves your overall health, helping to lower blood pressure, prevent or control diabetes, and prevent heart disease. The loss of muscle mass that comes with aging is reduced as well.

You may think that building strength means lifting weights – either at a gym or at home. But there are many ways to build strength without ever touching a dumbbell. In this blog post we’ll cover some of the easier and more common ways to increase your strength without lifting weights.

Before You Begin

If you have a chronic condition, such as knee or back pain, you should talk with your doctor before beginning a strength-building routine. Your doctor will be able to recommend activities for you to do that won’t aggravate your existing medical conditions.

Resistance Training

Working your muscles against an external force is called resistance training. For example, if you tie a string around a closed door’s handle and pull on it, that’s a form of resistance training. The door is resisting being opened and you’re exercising your muscles in attempting to overcome it.

Doing resistance training several times a week, and increasing the amount of resistance over time, will build up the muscles involved. A set of exercises that works different muscles in your body will give you a whole-body workout. 

Types of Resistance Training

Some different types of resistance training include:

  • Swimming – As you propel yourself through the water, you build strength as you overcome the water’s resistance. Swimming is easy on your joints and it’s great for your heart as well.
  • Kayaking -  Much like swimming, you are building upper body strength as you paddle to overcome the water’s resistance against your boat.
  • Cycling – As you ride up a hill, you are overcoming the resistance supplied by gravity, and building strength in your legs. Stationary indoor bikes have settings that increase the amount of resistance the machine provides.
  • Bodyweight – When you lift your body by doing exercises like pushups, sit-ups or squats, you are working different muscles to overcome gravity’s resistance.
  • Suspension – Attach straps to an anchor point, like the top of a door. While holding the straps and leaning forward, you can push or pull against your body’s weight to build upper body strength.
  • Resistance Bands – Elastic bands with different amounts of resistance can be used in many exercises to build strength. The bands are inexpensive and easy to take with you when traveling. 

How to Get Started

The first thing you’ll need to do is set some realistic goals for yourself. For example, you may decide that you’d like to build strength in your arms so that it’s easier to carry things like grocery bags or firewood.

Once you’ve got some goals in mind, decide what exercises you are going to do to reach your goals. An Internet search for the term ‘resistance training exercises’ will provide you with many ideas. Watching YouTube videos about different exercises is a good way to start because you’ll see how they should be done. If you want professional advice, you could consult a personal trainer. 

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Remember to warm up before doing your exercise routine by stretching. 
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during and after your workout. 
  • It’s important to start slowly, doing a small amount of a new exercise at first to see how it feels. If it’s going well, you can then gradually increase the number of repetitions or length of time you’re exercising.
  • Allow one or two days of rest between workouts, to give your muscles time to recover. 
  • It’s normal to be a little sore at first, but if that soreness persists or becomes more painful, you should discontinue your routine and see your doctor.  

As you build strength you can make an exercise more challenging by doing things such as changing your stance or tempo. You can also add new exercises to keep your routine interesting. Having a friend or family member to do the exercises with will make it more fun and help keep you motivated.